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Bruno Never Did Handle Other People's Opinions of Him That Well. The Opinion Being Positive Doesn't Change That.

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   “Finally got away from my little shadow.  She’s only insisted I look at her new glasses about two dozen times.  Some days I feel like she’s stuck to me with glue or somethin’,” Bruno complains lightheartedly, fixing himself a plate of his sister’s savory cooking.

   “Well, I think it’s sweet, her little crush on you,” Julietta croons, only for Bruno to choke on the single bite he’s taken.

   “Mirabel’s got a what?  No way, she’s too young for that!  Why me, why not one of the little neighborhood kids her own age?”

   “Relax, it’s normal for kids to get crushes on grown-ups they admire.  She’ll grow out of it in a year or two.”

   “Why aren’t you more worried about this?  What if this is formative, what if she bases her taste in men on me in the future?  Is that what you want for your daughter, I mean look at me, I’m a mess.”

   “I think Mira could do a lot worse than someone as caring and as creative as her Tio Bruno.  Besides, as long as whoever it is makes her happy, that’s what matters.  And if he doesn’t, I can break his nose as many times as it takes for him to learn.  Just because my food heals the wound doesn’t mean getting it doesn’t hurt.”

   “Wow, you are one scary lady.  Remind me not to get on your bad side.”

   It’s over a decade later, shortly after Bruno’s auspicious return into the lives of his family, that said prophet comes careening into the kitchen, hair fluffed up with his distress and signature green poncho askew.

   “I thought you said she would grow out of it!” he yelps.  “You said that!  A year or two; well it’s been way more than two!”

   “Bruno, I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Julietta says calmly from where she’s peeling potatoes at the counter.

   “Your daughter, the young one, Mirabel.  You said she would grow out of her crush, and she didn’t , because nieces who grew out of their crushes do not try to kiss me!”

   “She tried to kiss you?  Well, what did you tell her?”

   “Nothing, I ran away and came here.”

   “You just ran away?  Bruno, Mirabel is delicate!  Go talk to her, make sure she’s not upset.”

   “Talk to her- What am I supposed to say?”

   “Tell her she’s too young for you.”

   “Right.  I can do that.  Okay.”  With a fortifying breath and crossed fingers, Bruno leaves the kitchen to do just that.

  It’s another half a decade before Julietta and Bruno need to have a talk like that again.  The hour is late, and Bruno is staring into a half empty cup, staring at his reflection in the now cold coffee.

   “I know that face,” Julietta says quietly, pouring a cup of coffee of her own.  “You’re spiraling in your thoughts.”

   “She confessed again,” he admits quietly.  “Told me she was plenty old enough to make her own decisions now.”

   “I’m assuming you didn’t just run off this time.”

   “I told her I had to think about it, that I needed time.”

   “Mm, and how’d she take that?”

   “She said she’d be waiting for me for as many years as it would take to hear my answer.”

   “And your answer?”

   “Julietta, I swear I’ve never done anything to encourage her, to make her think-”

   “I know.  I know that you would never take advantage of her, or purposefully hurt Mirabel.  But I also know that if you didn’t have any feelings for her, you would have told her so by now, so she could move on.”

   “Do you think she would, if I told her that?”

   “I know better than to think she would believe you.  Mirabel knows her own heart, and she won’t be convinced to sway her path when there’s still hope.”

   “Am I that obvious?”

   “Only to those who know you, hermano.”

   “You think I should confess?”

   “Well, Mira has probably waited long enough.  It’s about time for you to get your act together.”

   “You approve?  Even though I’m- And she could do so much better than me.”

   “I trust my daughter to know what she wants, and be strong enough not to buckle under a little adversity.  So yes, as your sister, you have my blessing.”

   “And as Mirabel’s mother?”

   “As her mother, I trust that you remember our conversation about what will happen to anyone who doesn’t do their absolute utmost to make my daughter happy.”

   “...Right.  Good talk.”